Member Spotlight | Larisa Miller
Founding Member of WomenH2H, Award-winning International Keynote Speaker, Managing Partner at Akon Global, CEO at Phoenix Global LLC, Ambassador at State of the African Diaspora
Larisa Miller was recently named one of the
Top 100 People in Finance by The Top 100 Magazine
Top 10 Most Influential Friends of Africa by For Business in Africa Magazine
100 Global Women of Excellence by Sovereign Magazine
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Partner
Larisa serves on several international boards, most notably:
Board of Directors, Visual Farms, Inc. (United States)
Executive Director, Global Chamber of Business Leaders (Dubai, UAE)
Advisor, Ansari Group Ltd. (Dubai, United Arab Emirates / Toronto, Canada)
Board of Directors, Geneva Global Initiative (Geneva, Switzerland)
Board of Trustees, People to People International (Worldwide Organization headquartered in USA)
Board Member, Northern Citizen Community Board – United Nations (Pakistan)
President, Business and Professional Women International, Miami Chapter (USA)
Board of Directors for Union of Business Ladies (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Chairwoman of Global Impact Africa (United States)
Larisa Miller studied Political Science with a minor in Hungarian at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Organizational Leadership at Penn State University.
She worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, and later for the Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, in the office of public policy. Larisa spent several years working as a personal advisor and head of business development for a member of the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with a focus on sustainable development, energy, and agriculture. Additionally, Larisa served as head of the Royal Family’s large non-profit foundation, which focused on women, youth, literacy, and education. Through her work with this UAE-based foundation, Larisa spent considerable time working with women and children in refugee camps in the Middle East and Africa.
Larisa serves as CEO of Phoenix Global LLC, a global boutique consulting firm headquartered in Miami, Florida, specializing in international municipal and governmental consulting; sustainability and innovation strategies; business development and acceleration; as well as assisting clients in global market expansion and development. As an investment firm, we are the vehicle to meaningful investment projects both domestically and internationally, matching large-scale investment projects with strategic capital partners.
Additionally, Larisa is the Executive Vice President of STP Capital Partners, LLC SkopjeTechnology Park, Skopje, North Macedonia, and Director and Board Member of Visual Farms, Inc. In February 2020, Larisa was named Ambassador of the State of the African Diaspora, by Prime Minister Louis-Georges Tin.
Larisa is also an award-winning international keynote speaker, addressing audiences around the world on subjects such as business development, entrepreneurship, multi-sector investment, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the empowerment of youth, women, and refugees globally.
You have been empowering women globally for many years. What did you learn about women?
I have been fortunate to have lived in both Europe and the Middle East, exposed to many different countries, ethnicities, cultures, and business ethos’. I often find that women are the ones most open to considering alternative points-of-view and embracing unconventional strategies. While I realize that this statement is somewhat of a generalization and doesn’t always apply universally, men tend to be more linear when it comes to business structure and operations, following a more prescribed plan – enhancing and innovating, but doing so based on the order of our standard business practices.
Women tend to be more open to new concepts, approaching business in often unconventional ways.
The end goal is generally the same – profitability, growth, and sustainability, but the pathway to this end is often very different. For many years – decades really, as women, we attempted to carve a niche for ourselves on the climb up the corporate ladder by ‘doing it the way men did it’. We wore black or grey suits, we were tough, hid emotion, and emulated our male counterparts.
Now, in this Century of Women, we are embracing our differences, recognizing that men and women fundamentally think differently. We are proud that we are softer, more empathetic and emotional, as that allows us to inject new perspectives and thought processes into corporate problem-solving. And women are more open to considering new approaches, integrating diversity, innovative concepts, and disruptive thought processes.
How can we, women, empower each other?
Each woman has her own unique qualities based on her talents, interests, and education, so there is not a specific recipe that will empower all women. What inspires and drives me, will not be the same catalysts which will inspire you.
By respecting one another, honoring our diverse perspectives, and embracing and supporting one another, we will create global empowerment of ALL women.
A woman should never be ashamed to be “a girl”. Being feminine does not make a woman less strong or influential. Just because a woman is feminine, wearing high-heels and lipstick, does not mean that she is not equipped to be a strong leader, innovator, or respected contributor.
We are emotional, we are nurturing, we are soft and compassionate at times, but make no mistake, we can be equally fierce and tough when needed.
Many of the greatest female leaders in the world through history have been authoritative, dynamic, and forceful while remaining ladylike. As a woman, it’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to be emotional at times. Cry it out, put your lipstick back on, and try again.
It is not about competition between men and women, rather, I simply hope to spotlight the unique qualities of women, encouraging them to embrace these attributes and be proud of our feminine attributes.
When men and women learn to understand and appreciate the value that we each contribute to a well-rounded business mission, we will be able to set aside the concepts of gender equality and glass ceilings.
If we want to see more women in Senior Positions, what is most needed?
Women possess strength, tenacity, courage, and leadership. We are shameless multi-taskers, juggling professional responsibilities with family. At times, women are fierce and fearless, and other times they can be compassionate nurtures.
Because we always feel the need to “prove” ourselves professionally, sometimes women have a tendency to sabotage one another rather than support one another.
It is important that we join together, encourage unity of women, building cross-sector support networks, mentoring one another, supporting one another, forming life-long friendships which will allow us to continue to grow as business leaders and individuals.
If we recognize the importance of our own uniqueness and originality, we will stop comparing ourselves with other women, as too often we measure our abilities and worth of the abilities and worth of others.
Let’s focus on building our own talents, strengths, and perspectives. A woman who confidently respects herself embraces her own talents, cares for herself as much as she cares for others and isn’t afraid to have a different view or opinion from others – even if that view is unpopular, will be unstoppable.
As for how to help women feel greater ‘self-worth’, that is an internal battle waged individually.
Helping women to improve their feelings of self-worth comes from giving them confidence by making them feel valued, respected, and important – both in the workplace and at home.
Having groups, clubs and working environments which allow women to interact with one another in a positive and encouraging manner will go a long way toward establishing, promoting and furthering a culture of confident, empowered women.
Women have every opportunity today to reach senior positions. When we struggle to climb the ladder to the top, it’s not so much about equality and proverbial glass ceilings as much as it is about building our own confidence, not teaching our minds to be our friends, and not our worst enemies, as too often we get in our own heads and negative thoughts are like mental poison causing self-doubt, discouraging us from achieving our full potential.
Coming together as global sisters to support one another, we can help each other reach senior levels of success.
Sometimes we dwell too much on ‘equality’. For me, equality in the workplace means ‘equally respected’.
Men and women will never be “equal”, as we are so different from one another, however, if we embrace these differences, respectfully working together, uniting our diverse perspectives and thought processes, we will effectively end the need to discuss disparities in gender and equality.
From my own experience, my advice to women aspiring to reach senior levels – whatever the term ‘senior level’ means to them specifically, is to focus on your own personal development, constantly building your knowledge-base, refining your personal traits such as patience, empathy, and perspective, and helping to encourage businesses – either as leaders or employees – to appreciate and respect that men and women can ‘work together’ rather than feeling the need to compete with one another.
If we focus on creating a more cohesive society, we will realize greater business success, and finally be able to do away with the proverbial and cliched concepts of “glass ceiling” and “gender balance”.
You work with many women and minority-owned businesses, how are you helping clients to regain their footing during this pandemic?
Small businesses are struggling to find their footing and establish their ‘place’ in this new business and social environment. The COVID-world is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The social revolution we are undergoing in the USA is past-due and significant, as we move into this UN-declared Decade of Action. Both of these catalysts are shaping the future of business in manners which will require us to become critically resilient.
As business leaders we must be brave enough to embrace this time of change, being brave enough to disrupt our established models. Each and every business has a way back ‘in’ – even during times of slow down.
To find the open doors, you have to understand the reality of your situation – objectively assessing and identifying the gaps, but this is understandably difficult when your business is in disarray, especially when being instigated by circumstances out of your control. While this is the ideal time to engage an outside consultant, especially if they can quantify their impact, there are strategies that businesses can adopt on their own to spur recovery.
When a small business is struggling, it’s the time to throw out the rules.
Your stakeholders, employees, and customers will be looking to you for dramatic reforms and cataclysmic shifts that will ensure not only the survivability of the company but will safeguard their salaries, dividends, and services.
Business leaders tend to shoulder the weight of responsibility, keeping the financial and operational worries to themselves. However, one of the most effective ways to “hack” apart problems and find out-of-the-box solutions is to engage your employees. Make them the ‘stakeholders’ of the future of the business. Show them that you have confidence in their value and respect them as a member of the team by allowing them to participate in the revision of your business blueprint. Leaders often get stuck in mental cattle chutes of thought, focusing on getting the business back on trace without the bandwidth to put a great deal of thought into new and disruptive strategies.
By engaging employees, leaders can view the gaps and challenges in a much more open-minded and objective manner.
And, an employee who feels respected and appreciated will always perform above expectation – especially in times of challenge when the value of a motivated and empowered employee is immeasurable.
I have a unique approach to addressing the client’s needs and challenges. While many consultants look at the client’s situation from a linear standpoint (“How can I take what you already have and tweak it to find a solution?”), I prefer to approach the challenges using an out-of-the-box thought-process. When revitalizing business plans, innovating models, or helping a distressed business to recover and accelerate, my firm focuses not only on ways to do it differently but we create a unique roadmap for the company, staying with the company through integration and implementation.
I don’t want to simply improve or solve a problem for a client, I want to find ways to differentiate them from their competitors, carving a unique niche for them in an overcrowded market space. This not only increases their profitability, but it creates value for their stakeholders and customers, as well.
As a Global Consultant, what are key areas of concern today for business owners?
Too many businesses are sitting back waiting for the return of normal and are failing to recognize that this is the time when fortunes are made, and fortunes are lost.
Business owners who are not spending time identifying the gaps in the market and the fractures in their business models, regrouping, strategizing, and pivoting, will be left struggling to regain their space in the marketplace.
Too many business owners are counting on the fact that their businesses will resume as they always have once the pandemic stabilizes.
I can fundamentally say to all business owners that we will not go back to normal, because ‘normal’ was clearly the problem.
Now is the time to experiment with a new approach, a new product line, or a new way to provide or deliver your service or product. While your competitors are struggling to understand this new market, YOU will be CREATING this market.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement it would be to build a global unity of youth. The youth are the future.
They will be the ones charged with healing the damage that previous generations have inflicted on this planet. One of our most important mandates moving forward is to raise our youth – the future leaders, innovators, problem solvers, and peacemakers, to be kind, tolerant, empathetic, and to respect that value and perspective that can be found in people who are different from themselves.
It is only by setting aside our differences, seeing beyond our cultures and religions that we will be able to unify for a global solution. Instead of being the problem, we must come together to find the solution.